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View Full Version : Another " Which Uke for my first " question



MarkL
05-24-2016, 06:48 AM
Hi Everyone, Mark LaHaie here from <near> Portland Oregon.
I'm a newbie .. I've gotten the Uke bug. so .. time to buy one and learn to play !

Sorry for the longish repetition of what you probably hear a million times .. but.. gotta get the thoughts out.. especially to a group that loves Ukes !

I found the "theukulelesite" and have played through their demos ( about a hundred times 8-) all the way from bottom of the line through the $2,500 customs

I play guitar .. and have some nice acoustics and electrics.

I understand the idea to: buy as nice an instrument as you can, as you'll just like it more, it sounds better - and you'll play more.

I keep vascillating from:
start with laminate.. from the demos .. I liked:
ie. a Kala -TG ($128) , the Gretsch 9120 ( $129 but not in stock right now ) .. and I liked the Islander MT-4 ( $138 - little wider nut - but again not in stock right now )

- or -
just starting off with a little better:
The Kala Solid Spruce top KA-STG ( $185 ) ( I really like this one )

- or -
or damn the torpedoes - get an even NICER one to start with - kind of like buying my " 2nd Uke " .. First.
Pono all solid wood ( AT, MT or MGT ) at $351

The Kala all solid wood:
KA-ASAC-T $380
KA-SRMT-TRI $400 ( wow. love this one.. tri wood back.. )

With the solid wood ones.. then I have to factor in: adding a case to keep it humidified..

so: do I WAIT ( save $ longer ) to get a Nicer/Nice one.. or just get things going with one of the laminates ..

- and then there's always: haunt the Classified ads here and maybe pick up a nicer uke - used.

I do value the complete check through and set up that HMS provides - but then I'm spending ie. $30 freight..

so: there's my ramblings .. any advice from you Uke veterans .. appreciated !

Thank You !

Mark

PTOEguy
05-24-2016, 07:00 AM
I'd go with the lower cost ones. It took me a bunch of different ukes to find the one that really spoke to me, and part of that is learning what you like to play. That said, if I were looking to spend a little more I'd be looking at the Koaloha Opio.

MarkL
05-24-2016, 07:10 AM
Thanks PTOEguy.. well.. going cheaper.. would get me playing sooner.. The Opios would kind of be "tier 3" for me.. as a quick check on HMS has them at $576 or $595. Quite a bit more..

MainlandGal510
05-24-2016, 07:30 AM
Love my Kala STG! (HMS installed a pickup for me If it sounds good to you, then obviously you will play & practice more. Also, I agree with PTOEguy that the fun is in learning what you like to play and trying out different ukes. Good luck!

Croaky Keith
05-24-2016, 07:37 AM
I'm guessing you already know the kind of sound you like, if you hadn't had experience of fretboards, I would have said Kala laminate, but you probably would change up very quickly.

So......I suggest, for your first uke, you look seriously at getting a solid topped uke, then when you're sure, maybe get a Pono or better. :)

(Me.......I've got to watch the pennies! ;) )

blodzoom
05-24-2016, 08:31 AM
- or -
just starting off with a little better:
The Kala Solid Spruce top KA-STG ( $185 ) ( I really like this one )



You say you really like this one and you could order it today (HMS will take about two weeks to get it to you) and start playing soon. No matter what you buy, if you get into it, you're probably going to want another one later anyway. So get something that you like and start playing.

btw, I have a $100 lanikai that I play more than my fancy uke because I can leave it laying around the house. If it was just a little nicer, I would like it more, but if it was too nice, I'd have to be more careful with it. I think this KA-STG is a perfect place to start.

Just get something and start playing, you can figure out what your dream uke is later.

MarkL
05-24-2016, 08:49 AM
I think this KA-STG is a perfect place to start.

Just get something and start playing, you can figure out what your dream uke is later.

Thanks very much! Good advice. Really just the nudge I needed to decide - from a group with experience.

If the KA-STG receives blessing .. Solid Spruce top / lam sides&back. - under $200 ... I will resist the urge to buy better - to start with. If I bond .. I know I'll slide down the slippery slope .. and have other Ukes .. 8-)

I have a buddy who might purchase a UKE at the same time.. so we can meet the HMS minimum to get free freight on the order ( $400 min ) .. and they'll be well set up.

MarkL
05-24-2016, 08:57 AM
Love my Kala STG! (HMS installed a pickup for me If it sounds good to you, then obviously you will play & practice more. Also, I agree with PTOEguy that the fun is in learning what you like to play and trying out different ukes. Good luck!
Hey MainlandGal510 ..

The Mainland Mahogany Tenor was also on my radar.. have heard good things about Mainland. They have a Solid Mahogany B/S & Solid Spruce top for $289.. and their all solid Mahogany Tenor is $259.

I see you have both: Mainland and the Kala STG... since those prices are close to the STG.. how would you compare them ?
thanks,
Mark

hendulele
05-24-2016, 08:59 AM
I'll always put in a good word for Mim at Mims Ukes. (A regular on the UU boards, btw.) IIRC, she doesn't add shipping charges for orders more than $150 and her setup is spot-on. She also sells Kalas (and Ohanas, which I prefer) at all price points.

PTOEguy
05-24-2016, 01:13 PM
I'll always put in a good word for Mim at Mims Ukes. (A regular on the UU boards, btw.) IIRC, she doesn't add shipping charges for orders more than $150 and her setup is spot-on. She also sells Kalas (and Ohanas, which I prefer) at all price points.

Here here - I've ordered a uke from Mim and the service is amazing (I was also pleased with my experience from HMS/theukulelesite if you're wondering). I got a teton electric uke from Mim and the setup was extraordinary.

johnson430
05-24-2016, 02:31 PM
I understand the idea to: buy as nice an instrument as you can, as you'll just like it more, it sounds better - and you'll play more.

Mark

Mark,
This is your most important statement IMO. As a musician, you owe it to yourself to get a decent/good uke to start out. I tried laminate and solid top ukes, they aren't like solid top guitars. You really do lose something without a solid body uke. (Others will disagree, we all have opinions)
That being said:
My first suggestion, take it slow. Unless an amazing deal falls in your lap.
I spent a good two months researching and listening and thinking before buying my Pono MGT.

My second suggestion, the uke market is soft. I would suggest you spend a little time searching the UU marketplace, the fleamarket and Ebay for a good used instrument as well.

Lastly, I came from guitar and glad my first uke was a Pono tenor. Best $350 you can spend on a solid body w/ a truss rod.

Good luck,
Johnson

MarkL
05-24-2016, 03:19 PM
Thanks Johnson! I am taking my time... in the interim: I have a wonderful little Larrivee Parlor KOA guitar.. that I capo at the 5th fret.. and can practice chords etc.

While I'm tempted to just pull the trigger on something like a Kala STG.. .. If I can muster a little extra $.. I'd love to get an all solid wood Uke to start with.. which could carry me well along for awhile. I don't need < can't afford > bling to start with for sure.. The Pono AT or MGT ( HMS must be out of the MT as it's not showing now ) sound nice @ $351 .. . and as I noted Mainland has All Solid Mahogany..and Mahogany/Spruce for $259/$289.

It really is quite hard to discern the true tonal variation - from Vimeo clips - even w/ headphones.. I'm sure in person - the differences are much more apparent ...

Choirguy
05-24-2016, 05:10 PM
I would recommend a completely different course of action...I would start with a Caramel (see eBay or Amazon) tenor or concert model ($39 or $36, respectively) to see if you like the instrument and want to stick with it. There are also models with electronics and differing woods.

Coming from guitar, tenor or baritone (baritone has the same string pitches as the top four strings of a guitar) will probably be easier to transition to.

I think that Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome hits many of us...and before you know it, you might have a small collection of ukuleles. Starting with less than a $40 investment to see if you like it is probably the way to go.

Then, later, when you know what you are looking for, you can got to The Ukulele Site, Mim's, the Uke Republc (or other vendors) to buy the "dream" ukulele--or even watch the marketplace here if that dream ukulele shows up.

You won't find a better entry level ukulele for the price than a Caramel. That is what I would do.

JackLuis
05-24-2016, 06:26 PM
:agree:

Since you're already a musician, you know that not all instruments are equal. However it does make sense to see if you can put up with a C6 tuned Uke when you're coming from a G tuned broad spectrum instrument like the guitar. Try one of the Caramel Tenor solid tops for under a hundred with a few string sets, one in dGBE tuning. That way you can play it like a guitar'ish and see how you like the compact size and see if you like re-entrant tuning.

The instruments you mentioned are all very nice and should sound wonderful, but for the prices I'd want to play it first. I kind of got excited about Oscar Shimtz Ukes, because of the bling, until I played a few and found out they seemed heavy and I just didn't like them as well as a lot of other Ukes I sampled.

Every time I go into my local Uke shop I check out the ukes on the wall, they usually have ~100 on the wall and some are in the stratosphere price wise. While a lot of the K's/etc are very nice, I've found a few ~$100-$150 ukes that were pretty darned good, equaling some $1,500 ukes. (Well maybe not in 'pretty' but in tone and playability.) I tried a ceder topped Kala baritone that was ~$350 and it held it's own with some very pricey baritones that were in stock that day.

But what ever you do, buy one that makes you happy to play it. The Kala should be good or the Pono, if you can afford them.

Tootler
05-24-2016, 08:49 PM
Here's an alternative suggestion. Consider a Flea or a Fluke. When you look at the spec. Polymer body, laminate top, plastic fretboard for the base models and then look at the price, your first thought will probably be something like: Yuk!

However, you'd be wrong. They are well made, quality instruments that have great tone. They come with spot on setup out of the box and they're sturdy go anywhere instruments. If you don't like the idea of a plastic fretboard, you can get an upgrade to a wood fretboard but the plastic fretboard works well. I have a soprano Flea and a tenor Fluke and they're my take out, go anywhere instruments. If you live in a area of low humidity, you won't have humidification worries. I flown with my Flea as carry on baggage no trouble.

Overall great instruments and between the two there is soprano, concert and tenor scales available.

Mivo
05-24-2016, 10:32 PM
I'd only spend bigger bucks if you are certain about the size that you prefer. Since you're a guitar player (and presumably keeping your guitars), a tenor might sonically be too close to what you already have (then again, tenors are sufficiently different sounding). A concert or soprano might give you a more distinct sonic experience.

I think an upper entry level instrument might generally be best, provided it's properly set up, because it'll give you first hand experience with the ukulele and, through exposure, help you refine your preferences. I like the Opios, but I think they are above entry level.

MarkL
05-25-2016, 05:51 AM
Thank you everyone! What a diverse range of advice... all good !

1) Kala STG or similar - good place to start - then with experience, decide more on: what size, what quality is " for me "
2) Buy even BETTER to get started ( ie. Opio, Pono ). Jump right in with a higher grade of Uke .
3) Buy cheaper ( ie. Caramel ) , to see if the instrument is even for me ..
4) Consider alternative materials, ie. Flea/Fluke

I had pretty early on migrated to the Tenor size.. because my experience ( limited at best ) with hearing Soprano or Concert size is: cheap ones.. that sounded more toy like, not in tune, etc. Figured the larger size would be a better chance to have better tone. I now realize : that's not correct thinking. With high<er> end instruments.. quality tone is available in all sizes.

Still coming from Guitar, I think I'd be more comfortable with a larger instrument. - but that could easily change down the road with experience.

Given that I need to watch my pennies.. I need to suppress the urge to buy " Better " . I know a $300+ will sound better, is prettier, etc. - but I need to remember: it's my first uke.. and I do need to evaluate lots of things.

I think it's best for me to get: as noted, to focus on: " an upper end entry level " - so I get good tone.. ( granted not the " best " , good setup from the dealer.. ( ie. not Amazon or eBay ) .. good feel , proper intonation.. etc.

The Flea/Fluke suggestion is very interesting. Not traditional.. but: I'm after tone and experience. Dunno if the base model is ok w/ : plastic frets and fretboard, friction tuners.. by the time you upgrade to Tenor size.. geared tuners.. you're at: $305 ..a hardwood fretboard adds another $79 = $383.

Next up: there is a store in the Portland area that has SOME models for me to play.. I'll put 'em in my hands.. and see how they sound , so I'm not relegated to: youtube/vimeo clips .. !

Thank you all for your patience ! - and advice .. !
Mark

johnson430
05-25-2016, 06:40 AM
Next up: there is a store in the Portland area that has SOME models for me to play.. I'll put 'em in my hands.. and see how they sound , so I'm not relegated to: youtube/vimeo clips .. !

Mark

Smart move. I did the same thing. I played as many as a could; even sizes I wasn't shopping for just to get a feel for the instrument.

Actually, I had the "parlor guitar bug" recently and was ready to buy one online but then found out a local music store had several in stock. I went in, tried them (and a 3/4 size) and walked out feeling relieved. Why? I knew I didn't want one now, it was just a passing feeling and I am glad I played them to realize that my ukes make me happy, for now.
BTW, I responded to your PM. You are on the right path. Also, could you post a photo of your Koa parlor. I would love to see what it looks like.

JackLuis
05-25-2016, 06:46 AM
Play all the sizes and try a Baritone. Bari's are almost too big, IMHO, but they are guirtarish and you may find it an easier to transition. See if they have a re-entrant tuned Bari. It will sound more Uke like.

Pay attention to the size and ease of chording of a good concert. Concerts are fun and can have a sparkely sound to them. Ohana makes a CK-22 for ~$150 that is pretty nice, I have one. A spruce topped plain jane look but very nice chiming tone, and very light weight. Would be good for finger picking.

Yes play as many as you can before you put down your bucks.

Uke's sound different than a capo'd guitar, I know I tried that with my old Harmony before I bought my first Uke.

I put up a review of my Rubin-Caramel Tenors (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?120705-Two-Zebra-Tenors-dGBE)the other day. Not sure how 'good' the sound is on it but dGBE tenors are hard to find videos of.

MainlandGal510
05-25-2016, 07:52 AM
Hey MainlandGal510 ..

The Mainland Mahogany Tenor was also on my radar.. have heard good things about Mainland. They have a Solid Mahogany B/S & Solid Spruce top for $289.. and their all solid Mahogany Tenor is $259.

I see you have both: Mainland and the Kala STG... since those prices are close to the STG.. how would you compare them ?
thanks,
Mark

hi! TO MY EARS (i consider myself an advanced beginner - 2 1/2 years uke playing - maybe in between yellow belt & green belt rank lol) The STG is def brighter and slightly louder strumming & picking. (Strumming comparison would be similar to mahogany back guitar vs rosewood back guitar.) There is a difference in body dimensions between the two so maybe that's why. (?) (STG is about 1/4" deeper at the lower bout.)

What I notice the most about these 2 particular ukes is each neck feels different to me. So I measured to see if I was going insane. Same measurements at the nut but at the bottom of the 7th fret the STG is 1/16" wider and 1/16" deeper around. The STG feels easier FOR ME to pick and do scales at that part of the neck. But it's a gloss neck - i wish it was a satin neck like the Mainland. I haven't played any other Mainland Tenors to compare so not sure if this is measurement is standard. Goes to show that trying out ukes in person to hear and see if they feel good is always a good option if you have a shop near you. Nothing where you live?

I play them both with Worth Browns. (Strings are a WHOLE other personal can of worms...) If I get a chance this evening (& if you can wait on ordering a uke <GASP!> i know how that goes!) I'll put up a Soundcloud comparison.

I love both because they each sound different. Hope that helps.
P.S. my review of the STG on HMS is "Happy Camper" - there was an intonation/string issue but it got resolved.

MainlandGal510
05-25-2016, 08:17 AM
http://www.portlandmusiccompany.com/index.php
Maybe call and see what they have in stock in your price range?


Thank you everyone! What a diverse range of advice... all good !

1) Kala STG or similar - good place to start - then with experience, decide more on: what size, what quality is " for me "
2) Buy even BETTER to get started ( ie. Opio, Pono ). Jump right in with a higher grade of Uke .
3) Buy cheaper ( ie. Caramel ) , to see if the instrument is even for me ..
4) Consider alternative materials, ie. Flea/Fluke

I had pretty early on migrated to the Tenor size.. because my experience ( limited at best ) with hearing Soprano or Concert size is: cheap ones.. that sounded more toy like, not in tune, etc. Figured the larger size would be a better chance to have better tone. I now realize : that's not correct thinking. With high<er> end instruments.. quality tone is available in all sizes.

Still coming from Guitar, I think I'd be more comfortable with a larger instrument. - but that could easily change down the road with experience.

Given that I need to watch my pennies.. I need to suppress the urge to buy " Better " . I know a $300+ will sound better, is prettier, etc. - but I need to remember: it's my first uke.. and I do need to evaluate lots of things.

I think it's best for me to get: as noted, to focus on: " an upper end entry level " - so I get good tone.. ( granted not the " best " , good setup from the dealer.. ( ie. not Amazon or eBay ) .. good feel , proper intonation.. etc.

The Flea/Fluke suggestion is very interesting. Not traditional.. but: I'm after tone and experience. Dunno if the base model is ok w/ : plastic frets and fretboard, friction tuners.. by the time you upgrade to Tenor size.. geared tuners.. you're at: $305 ..a hardwood fretboard adds another $79 = $383.

Next up: there is a store in the Portland area that has SOME models for me to play.. I'll put 'em in my hands.. and see how they sound , so I'm not relegated to: youtube/vimeo clips .. !

Thank you all for your patience ! - and advice .. !
Mark

MarkL
05-25-2016, 09:24 AM
Hey MainlandGal -- THANKS so much for your info ! re: the Mainland and the STG. I am NOT in a hurry ( actually.. I'm compulsing on this.. but: I will not be buying really soon. ) ..

Truly.. my next step with all this academic evaluation.. is to get a few in my hands.. Can only read about 'em.. and ask advice - for so long... 8-)

A local store ( Artichoke Music ) said they sell a lot of the basic Kala- T to their students taking lessons.. ..and also really liked the STG - and have 'em so I could sample them. I'll check Portland Music also. I'll keep an eye on the Marketplace here.. as - if I buy used.. I'd rather trust a forum member.. than something like Craigslist . Good Setup is so important

MarkL
05-25-2016, 11:46 AM
Uke's sound different than a capo'd guitar


Yo <JackLuis>
I practice w/the capo - as much for - so I can play some Uke chords when I try them out at a store. rather than just plucking the open strings..

JackLuis
05-25-2016, 02:06 PM
Go and play my friend. It's the only way to chose a good one. That Kala STG will probably fit your needs. I'm more limited to Caramels due to being baroque. ;)

MarkL
05-27-2016, 11:27 AM
I've taken my first step into - my Ukulele experience

Found a used Kala-STG ( Reverb.com )

From original owner - who purchased it with a case at HMS.
Very good price.

So now hoping the seller is reputable and the item is as advertised - if so - in a week or so I'll have a good entry level Uke to start building my own opinions!

All my research has just taught me that: there are lots of Ukes I want to play - but I can be playing in the meantime. ( Learning chords, strumming etc. )

Thanks to everyone for your help !

Mark

DownUpDave
05-27-2016, 12:45 PM
I've taken my first step into - my Ukulele experience

Found a used Kala-STG ( Reverb.com )

From original owner - who purchased it with a case at HMS.
Very good price.

So now hoping the seller is reputable and the item is as advertised - if so - in a week or so I'll have a good entry level Uke to start building my own opinions!

All my research has just taught me that: there are lots of Ukes I want to play - but I can be playing in the meantime. ( Learning chords, strumming etc. )

Thanks to everyone for your help !

Mark


You have made a GREAT choice. I like that model a lot and so do people who play it, great bang for the buck. You bought it used which saves money but the most important thing is it came from HMS, fully inspected and set up. Congratulations, well done, enjoy the heck outta it :music:

actadh
05-27-2016, 07:12 PM
Enjoy your ukulele!

MarkL
05-28-2016, 05:38 AM
Thank You DownUpDave & Laura ! now ... the waiting for it to arrive 😐 of course its a Holiday long weekend which delays transit a bit .. Aauugghh!

socal16
05-28-2016, 09:53 AM
I just bought my first ukulele, Kala KA-TG, and I'm really excited to play it. I had a nice mahogony baritone uke when I was a kid and foolishly traded it for a not-so-great guitar which I subsequently sold at a yard sale years ago. I still regret that move! I think the Kala sounds pretty nice. Was it a mistake to get the gloss finish. I think it looks good.

MarkL
06-02-2016, 11:47 AM
Tick ... Tock ... Tick .. Tock...

Can you hear that clock ticking VERY slowly.. that's my Uke traveling here from Texas ( purchased off Reverb ... ) .. won't be here until next Wednesday .. man that's a long time ...

Mivo
06-02-2016, 04:04 PM
There's some deliciousness in the anticipation, though! :)

You're right, though, researching ukuleles often leads you to see things that can't be unseen. I also agree that there is no substitute for really trying out an instrument for a while. Not just for five minutes, but for weeks or months. Few of my predictions about what I would like or dislike turned out to be accurate, and experiences shaped preferences. It's an exciting journey.

MarkL
06-06-2016, 04:31 AM
two more sleeps ..... ..... ..... 😊

dizaster
06-06-2016, 07:29 AM
I'd say buy which ever one floats your boat ��
No matter which you buy , you will soon suffer from UAS, more commonly known as Ukulele Aquisition Syndrome ��
I've been meddling with my ukes on and off for nearly 2 years, I say meddling as I wouldn't always call the sounds I produce music, well sometimes lol. My uke collection has grown at a higher pace than my playing ability. I now have six, no make that seven ukes ( just been bought a Baritone for my 50th birthday last week �� )
I've one each of soprano, concert and tenor (Brunswick and 2 Makala's ) then I have 2 electric ukes a Vox and a les Paul lookie likie �� and then an acetone (plastic) uke. All depends on the mood I'm in as to which uke I meddle with.
Of course now it's going to be the Baritone for a while, learning all new chords etc..
Whichever one you get , I hope you hug it and squeeze it an call it George �� Lol have fun

Diz9000

MarkL
06-07-2016, 06:57 AM
Oh boy ! delivery is to be one day earlier than expected: TODAY !

Hoping the instrument is OK.. all the way from: no unreported issues from the seller .. to: transport was ground ship ( USPS ) in VERY hot weather in the area ( 100 degrees ) .. hoping the Uke sitting in hot trucks has had no negative effect ..

Photos on arrival ! ( after sitting in my A/C home for some hours to acclimate )